So I've had the complete and utter luck of never having had to pitch my tent in the rain.

However, with needing to pitch it this weekend and the high probability of rain and potential thunderstorms (I might add, British thunderstorms, so rather tame and mostly lasting 15-30 minutes maximum so we should be able to avoid that) and going to Wales in a few weeks where there is more chance of rain, I was wondering if there were any particular DOs and DON'Ts in regards to pitching in the wet. There will be two of us pitching the tent this weekend, four in Wales.

I know this will vary slightly depending on what tent people have. I happen to have a 4 man tent (Eurohike Sandringham) it has an outer layer, a hanging inner sleeping area with its own attached groundsheet and a separate bucket groundsheet for the other area - so technically it comes in three parts. There are at least a dozen guy ropes, and more tent pegs than I can count, and we have plenty spare.

I would guess there is a case of more haste less speed, but is there anything one should completely avoid when pitching in the wet, or on the other hand something that one definitely should do?

Edit: Some people have mentioned 'crawling about' - this won't be an issue in this particular case because of the sheer size of a Eurohike Sandringham - you can stand upright easily, and we can fit our Ford Focus inside when just the outer layer is pitched. But the comments are good to know nonetheless as we won't always have such a big tent! We plan to get a Vango Halo 300 in the future which is much smaller.

I accepted the answer I felt most relevant to my personal situation, however all give brilliant advice to bear in mind in all locations / with all tent types!

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    Just to say we DID pitch in the rain in Wales last month and the info here was very helpful!
    – Aravona
    Commented Sep 3, 2014 at 8:02
  • @OlinLathrop already said that the thunderstorm is avoidable in my question.
    – Aravona
    Commented Feb 6, 2015 at 14:25
  • When buying a new tent, consider the weather you'll probably face. Then an outer first tent is best for rainy places.
    – QuentinUK
    Commented Feb 10, 2015 at 16:19

8 Answers 8


For tents that erect outer first, pitching in the rain is no different to any other time, just don't leave the dry inner out in the rain while putting the outer up. The outer will get wet on both sides anyway.

To make this easier a bit of forward planning is useful, like pack the inner and outer separately so that you can just leave the inner in the car until its needed.

Choose your spot carefully, ideally the lee side of a wall or natural windbreak, on shortish grass (relative to the depth of the tray in your groundsheet) that is slightly higher than the areas around it (avoid boggy and low lying areas where water will accumulate).

Large tents that erect outer first can be pretty floppy in high wind, so extra pegs and guys can be useful. If you have a geodesic tent with flexible poles a pole repair kit (a metal pole sleeve made from narrow pipe and duck tape) can be a life saver too.

Other Essential Kit (esp for Wales): Wet weather footwear, even if its not actually raining you'll be walking around a lot in wet grass. Go for total exclusion (wellies) or man up and go for total immersion (sandals). In summer months I prefer sandals as you can wear them when/if the sun shines as well. Outdoor sandals, made from fast drying man made materials are go anywhere footwear, great for paddling around in wet places.

I'd also recommend shorts, wet legs are far easier and quicker to deal with than wet trousers. Save your dry clothing for when you're inside.

Head torch, totally indispensable item, my single best purchase, ever! Try doing anything that requires two hands in the dark without one of these.

I've been camping and backpacking in the mountains in all weather and all seasons for 40+ years, these are hard won lessons.

Above all, a bit of adversity never hurt anyone, and next time you will go prepared.

  • Brilliant options here, clothing, shoes, head torch! :) thank you
    – Aravona
    Commented Jul 17, 2014 at 13:36

There are all kinds of people who put up the fly first, then crouch under it putting up the inside. It's generally a very unpleasant experience from all I have heard, what with the crouching, crawling, and being rained on at least while getting the fly up. I handle it completely differently, because I have a free standing tent.

On arrival at a site the very first thing we put up is a tarp. Whether it's currently raining or not, up goes that tarp. It is high enough that we can walk around freely underneath it. Sometimes one end goes down somewhat lower to keep out wind-driven rain. Then if it is raining, we can put everything under the tarp immediately. If it's a quick shower that should blow over soon, we can just hang out under there for 30-60 minutes, have some hot chocolate, whatever.

If there's no sign of the rain letting up, we can put the tent up - inside, outside, the whole shooting match except for pegging it - under the tarp. Then we can quickly put down the footprint where we want the tent, carry the erected tent over there, peg it, and tada! the inside stayed dry. We can then use the drybag in which we transport sleeping bags, pads, and clothes to carry all that over to the erected tent, open it in the vestibule, and unpack perfectly dry stuff into the tent.

Once the tent is up, we can set the area under the tarp up as a kitchen and the campsite is all set. We'll typically string a few lines under the tarp for hanging wet things while we're at it. Here's a side-on look at a "rain kitchen" in action. Notice the ground is a much lighter colour under the tarp - that's because it's dry.

rain kitchen

And here's a facing-in look:

enter image description here

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    If you don´t carry that extra tarp, but have an extra footprint, you could try to span this above for the duration of pitching. +1 for staying dry and relaxed! Commented Jul 17, 2014 at 12:53
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    Once when car camping with friends in a field-style site we parked our cars back-to-back about 20 feet apart, each raised the back hatches as high as we could, and set up the tarp between the cars to make a dry area that also had access in and out of the cars. It worked pretty well! Commented Jul 17, 2014 at 13:16
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    Just out of interest: what's the hanging bucket for? Commented Jul 17, 2014 at 13:24
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    that's the bailer for the canoe. It's liable to blow away in the wind and doesn't deserve a spot in a backpack or vestibule. The centre of the undertarp is actually out of the way, since you come in and out from the edges and don't walk over the stove. It's also a handy place to put things like damp cloths that you don't want to put down on the ground - there was no rock under that tarp other than the one we carried in to put the stove on. Commented Jul 17, 2014 at 13:38
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    @KateGregory using the cars back to back is a brilliant idea, could utilise our cars quite well I think!
    – Aravona
    Commented Jul 17, 2014 at 14:54

If the poles of your tent attach to the outer you're in luck. Before you go remove the inner from the outer and pack these separately, potentially wrap them in plastic bags or something so they stay dry.

Then when you turn up your first task is to get the waterproof outer up as fast as possible. If it rains while you're putting this up, it's fine. Just keep the inner's as dry as you can. Remember to add some pegs straight away then if it's windy and you're half way though it won't disappear down the camp site. Doing this first means that if it rains you've got shelter.

Once it's functionally up I'd spend a bit of time getting it pegged out properly, peg the guy ropes and get them nice and tight.

Then add the ground sheet and inners. If it rains now, who cares, you'll be dry.

This is basically why tents changed from inner with poles and outer over the top to outer with poles and inner attached separately. It allows you to get the waterproof bit up without getting the inner wet.

If your tent isn't like this... well just do it as fast as you can.


Assuming you don't have an outer first tent pitching in the rain comes down to planning and practice. It is actually possible to stay fairly dry if you're organised.

There is no sure fire method but there are a few tricks which can help you keep the inner dry.

  • Don't wrap the tent poles up inside the tent, this will force you to unwrap the tent while it's raining
  • Keep the inside of the inner covered as much as possible at all times, you can do this by either keeping it folded so the groundsheet protects it or covering it with the fly
  • If your tent can stand without pegs pitch it, get the flysheet over it THEN peg it in (not always a good idea in windy conditions). Pegging in a tent takes a long time, make sure you're not letting it get wet during that time
  • If there are two of you pitch one tent as a team before moving onto the next, if your partner is unsure how to pitch yours make sure you're very explicit - don't leave them standing in the rain

Once you're pitched:

  • Don't get in the tent until you absolutely have to, you'll be wet and all that extra movement will just make the tent wet too!
  • Be organised, keep things in the porch which you'll need outside. Don't go back into the tent for your matches, stove, midge net, waterproof, torch
  • Keep bags away from the sides of the tent

Obviously there are the location considerations:

  • Don't pitch in a hollow which may flood
  • Trees may stop the rain but they also hold it (not to mention the midges)
  • Short grass is good (and more comfortable)

Finally (and this may sound pessimistic) always assume your tent WILL leak. If you have a car keep as much kit as possible in the car and out of the tent. This guarantees you dry clothes and means if you do have to evacuate there's less to carry. This may sound obvious but don't keep anything electrical which isn't designed for outdoor use (phones, iPods/Pads etc) in the tent. It's not worth the risk!

Don't forget pubs are often much drier than tents!

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    pubs are often much drier than tents!, hear that brother... :)
    – user2766
    Commented Jul 17, 2014 at 14:23
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    I love camping/walking etc - but when it's freezing cold and soaking wet I'll nurse that pint with the best of them.
    – Liath
    Commented Jul 17, 2014 at 14:23
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    @Liath Ahh pubs... always better when one of those is close at hand...
    – Aravona
    Commented Jul 17, 2014 at 14:24

The outside of a tent is designed to get wet, the key trick is to keep everything else dry. You will want to pitch the outer first and only then add the inner. The other answer has covered that well.

Some more general tips though is to have a look at the base of your inner tent and see how waterproof it is. A lot of ground sheets are not waterproof at all. If you pitch the tent onto very wet ground then the water will come up through the ground sheet. There is nothing you can do about that once it has happened, however if you take a sheet of plastic with you (just any old plastic will do) and put that down under your inner tent it will add another layer of protection between the water and your sleeping bag.

Make sure you have sleeping mats of some kind between you and the ground as well, again that helps to keep you dry.

You will also want to put in a rule about no wet stuff coming into the inner tent. Wet boots, muddy trousers, etc should all get removed in the porch or they will end up covering everything inside the tent.

  • Brilliant input, but the Eurohike Sandringham doesn't have a porch bit unfortunately however that is very valid of if/when we get a vango halo. Our groundsheet is also very waterproof, I spilt a drink in it and it just pooled in a dip. Taking additional plastic would be a good idea as well, thank you!
    – Aravona
    Commented Jul 17, 2014 at 11:00
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    @Aravona Spilling a drink onto the groundsheet possibly might not proof the groundsheet's water-proofness. A groundsheet that does not leak out a puddle of water from the inside may start to leak if you apply a high pressure on wet ground, for example by kneeling in the tent. In this case, you may suddenly get wet knees from the water that was forced from the wet ground through the sheet. Commented Jul 17, 2014 at 11:23
  • @BenediktBauer Very true, I probably should have added we have been in our tent in the rain (just not pitching in it) and not had any issue from the groundsheet. The tent toggles were our biggest issue there and that's been resolved and maintained with a sealant.
    – Aravona
    Commented Jul 17, 2014 at 11:26
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    @Aravona The thing is, if you pitched the tent in the dry then the ground under the tent is at least a little bit dry. The flysheet then keeps the ground under the tent dryer than that around. Pitching the tent in the rain you are going straight down onto all that water which is sodden into the soil. It depends just how wet the ground is which depends on a lot of different factors (i.e. type of soil, quantity and duration of rain, etc) but is something to be aware of.
    – Tim B
    Commented Jul 17, 2014 at 11:57
  • @TimB that is very true and good to know. Will bear that in mind when we pick a place to pitch
    – Aravona
    Commented Jul 17, 2014 at 12:00

In addition to the other answers, if you expect heavy rain (I'm also heading for Snowdonia this weekend...) be careful about the location you choose as well. Avoid places near rivers or streams but also avoid hollows in the ground or the bottom of slopes.

Your groundsheet may be waterproof but its sides only extend upwards for a certain length and it is possible for the sides to be swamped by pools of water, etc. if the pools are deep enough.

Also bear in mind if thunderstorms are forecast avoid high points and also keep well away from trees.

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    Forest ground absorbs a lot more water than grass. I got very wet once when I camped on a slightly sloped meadow because all the rain ran downhill instead of seeping in. Commented Jul 17, 2014 at 11:58
  • I once camped at the bottom of a campground only to wake up in the night on what appeared to be a waterbed. There was a small river flowing under our tent and ground cover and tent floor was doing an A+ job of keeping out the water while we floated on our sleeping mats above it! Commented May 30, 2018 at 18:35

Firstly, if possible, wait a while. Find somewhere to shelter out of the rain, and wait to see if the rain stops. For typical UK summer weather, most heavy rain is only short showers. So it will probably stop raining (or at least ease off) in 10 minutes or so.

If its not going to stop raining, you can unpack your tent while under shelter. Then sort out which bits you need first, maybe join parts of it together. This can make it a lot faster to erect when you have to go out into the rain.

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    We had 3 days solid rain here not long ago so waiting isn't always an option :) but worth remembering.
    – Aravona
    Commented Jul 17, 2014 at 12:45

One last tip, if you don't get everything just right, carry a pack towel or other microfibre super absorbent towel to get the inside as dry as possible before putting gear inside.

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